Boris Johnson Wants to Force People to Show ID Before Voting

By Gavin Whenman on at

In what future generations might hold up as the unsurpassable paradigm of "using a sledgehammer to crack a nut", the British government is expected to announce plans to force voters to show identity papers at polling stations before casting their ballot in order to "safeguard against electoral fraud."

The only problem is in-person electoral fraud in the UK is a myth on a par with Bigfoot, the tooth fairy and Boris Johnson's virginity. Out of the 44.5 million ballots cast in 2017, only 28 of them faced allegation of in-person voter fraud and only one person, a luckless voter in Waltham Forest, was convicted as a result. Even if all the allegations were true (a big if, given 22 of them were found to lack evidence), the incidents of fraud would amount to 0.00006 per cent of votes cast.

Meanwhile, 3.5 million UK citizens do not have access to photo ID and and 11 million do not have a passport or driving licence, according to the Electoral Commission.

One thing a voter identification law would do, of course, is disenfranchise millions of poor, elderly and black and ethnic minority voters, leading a diverse coalition of charities and pressure groups that includes Age UK, the National Union of Students, Operation Black Vote, the Salvation Army and Stonewall to oppose the plans. Of course, the vulnerable, the disadvantaged and the historically marginalised tend not to vote Tory, so the Conservatives, who haven't secured more than 43 per cent of the vote at any general election in the past 40 years, don't seem to give a tiny fuck as this will help them cling on to power while appealing to an ever smaller proportion of the country.

Government sources have reportedly said that under the new Electoral Integrity Bill voters without the required documentation would be able to apply for a free “electoral ID” from their local council. So that's all right then.

The new rules have no actual chance of being passed by this parliament, as Boris Johnson couldn't even get a bill through the Commons that stated the sky is blue and the grass green. But if the Conservatives win the general election widely expected to take place later this year or early next, you can expect this self-serving bill to make a reappearance. [The Guardian]